Russians Reported Heavily Strengthening Their Mediterranean Naval Forces

As many as 15 Soviet warships were reported today to be sailing in the direction of Port Said and Alexandria in a display of strength designed to intimidate Israel and serve as a shield for Egypt. The armada was said to include missile-firing ships and submarines. The vanguard of the fleet was due to reach Egyptian ports today.

The London Daily Express asserted today that Soviet naval strength in the Mediterranean had increased about 30% since the Six-Day War last June and estimated Soviet naval strength there at 44 ships.

(Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, head of the U.N. cease-fire observance team, reported to U.N. headquarters today that “the situation remains generally quiet” on the Israeli-Syrian sector, and that, in the Suez Canal area, this morning, unidentified jets, flying at high altitude, crossed the canal and came under Egyptian anti-aircraft fire.)

Writing in the Evening Standard, Jon Kimche said a Soviet fleet consisting of eight destroyers, 12 torpedo boats and 15 submarines had been deployed in Egyptian territorial waters between Port Said and Alexandria. The “increasing Soviet involvement in the Suez Canal situation,” he said, was reflected also in the fact that a considerable number of senior Soviet staff officers are working on the Egyptian General Staff and with the air force, army and navy. Most of the 45 senior officers who arrived in Cairo with Marshal Zakharov, he said, were to remain behind to work with the Egyptians and the Russians already there. He asserted that more than 600 pilots and tank crew members had been sent to Russia for special training.

The London Daily Telegraph warned Egypt today against any further measures such as the attack on the destroyer Elath. The paper said editorially that “the most suicidal thing that could happen now would be for Egypt to use some other Russian military or aerial gimmick to hit an Israeli city that would tempt Israel to exploit her military advantage fully while she still has it.”

Reports from Cairo today said that Israeli planes overflew Suez City three times, apparently on observation missions, and Egyptian anti-aircraft fire was opened against them. The Egyptians said the fires, which had raged since Tuesday in the giant refineries and tanks near the city were now under control.

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